Unpaid caregivers in ME receive limited financial grants
Friday, December 1, 2023
Advocates for unpaid family caregivers in Maine say they'll need continued support beyond the recently passed paid family and medical leave program.
Caregiving can be a full-time job with many out-of-pocket expenses, like paying for gas to get to a doctor's appointment or ensuring a parent has enough food in their fridge.
Bridget Quinn, associate state director for advocacy and outreach with AARP Maine, said state grants to help caregivers with up to $5,000 in expenses will end next year, and lawmakers need to start considering ways to ensure that help continues.
As Quinn put it, "That is basically having a 24-7 job for a lot people that they never get a break from, so there is a significant amount of caregiver stress and burden."
An AARP report finds unpaid caregivers in Maine provide nearly $3 billion in economic benefits, with women providing the bulk of that work.
Beginning in 2026, eligible workers will have 12 weeks of paid time off available to them for family or medical reasons. Employers and employees will split a 1% payroll tax to fund the program.
Quinn suggested the Maine Legislature could also create unique tax credits for caregivers, to help cover expenses and increase the availability of services that allow families to remain in their homes as they age.
"Especially for those in kind-of far out reaches of Maine," Quinn added, "who really need the support sooner than later, because they are dealing with a situation where they have few options already."
She noted it took years of grassroots advocacy to win a paid family and medical leave program, and encouraged caregivers to reach out to legislators to ensure more gains.
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